("Let's table the discussion" is a new Adath Israel Shul initiative where a story or thought is presented in order to stimulate exciting and constructive discussion around our Shabbos table or among friends and children.)
William and his Aunt Caroline were constantly feuding. Actually, William was jealous of his aunt's popularity and social status in the New York of the late 1890's. Compared to her, he was considered a social outcast, and was never invited to any of her lavish parties. That would have been bad enough. Having to live next door to her was too much for William to bear. The sight of elegant carriages arriving and departing made him seethe. Yet he could do nothing. At least he did nothing until the family fortune was distributed and he received 100 million dollars. Then he knew what to do. He decided to rip down his mansion and build a monstrosity. It had 530 rooms, 350 baths, and a whopping 970 employees. It would be the grandest, most elegant guest house of it's kind. More carriages would pull up to his home in a day then to his aunt's mansion in a month! Her home would pale in comparison, and the tumult of it all would force her to move.
William was right. Aunt Caroline moved way north of the shadow of her nephew's hotel. And then she ripped down her old home. With the mere 50 million that she received, she too, decided to build a hotel on the site of her old mansion! It would be even more elegant, with nicer rooms and better service than her nephew's. Two adjacent, competing hotels would have been built right next to each other if not for the wisdom of William's own hotel manager. He got the two feuding relatives together and explained that hostility is not the way to success.
"If you two could just work together and adjoin the two hotels as one, it would become the most outstanding and influential accommodation on earth," he explained. They listened and followed his instructions. He even advised them to make sure that every opening between the structures could be sealed again in case of a renewed falling-out. But in the end, William Waldorf and his aunt, Caroline Astor decided to bury the hatchet and replace it with a hyphen. And the world's most luxurious accommodation was built -- The Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.
Paul Harvey, America’s closest answer to a maggid used to tell this story as a means of highlighting the “rest of the story.” It reminds us how when opposing forces are brought together to work on the same side instead of in opposition, the opportunities are enormous.
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetsky once mentioned that this was the power of the fire and ice in the Maaka Barad (Hail). The fire and ice hailstones were overwhelmingly miraculous. Two opposing forces like fire and ice were now working in tandem and working on a shared goal of destroying Egypt. It becomes no wonder why Pharaoh capitulates and even declares to Moshe that Hashem is correct and he and his people, guilty. After all, when experiencing the united assault of opposites joining forces to attack YOU – who would have been able to withstand the attack?
But the message of the “fire and ice” or Waldorf and Astoria twinning also highlights a more fundamental message – that we are stronger and more successful at achieving common goals when we “join together with the competition” instead of trying to “one up it.”
How often do we see common communal goals that are split between organizations who exists to basically do the same thing? Is it better for the two programs to be running merely to double the burden on the same community? What can we do to consolidate and strengthen our communities through common vision and common goal sharing?
It's almost like the children who ask for the same toy as their siblings even though the single toy is enough for them to share. By buying two, aren't we wasting valuable resources? For what purpose is the redundancy? How can we encourage conservation and strengthening of the sharing and caring model in our children as well?
Let’s “table” the discussion – by discussing it with our children, spouses, families and guests and open an exciting discussion into our homes and community.